By RON HARRIS
Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A video aired Saturday that purportedly showed an American being decapitated in Iraq was a hoax.
The man shown in the video, reached by The Associated Press in San Francisco, said he videotaped the staged beheading at his friend's house using fake blood.
Benjamin Vanderford, 22, said he began distributing the video on the Internet months ago in hopes of drawing attention to his one-time campaign for city supervisor. When his political aspirations waned, he thought the video would serve as social commentary.
"It was part of a stunt, but no one noticed it up until now," Vanderford said. "I did this for a couple of reasons. One is to attract attention. But two is to just make a statement on these type of videos and how easily they can be faked."
On the tape, Vanderford sat on a chair in a dark room, his hands behind his back, trembling and rocking back and forth. The tape showed a hand with a knife cutting at the motionless man's neck, but did not show any militants.
"We need to leave this country alone. We need to stop this occupation," he said on the video, adding that he had been offered for exchange with prisoners in Iraq. "Everyone's going to be killed this way."
The videotape was posted on a militant Web site and aired on Arab television Saturday. Vanderford was clad in a T-shirt, not the orange jumpsuit that other hostages have been dressed in.
The video was titled "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Slaughters an American." Zarqawi is an al-Qaida linked militant whose group, Tawhid and Jihad, has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks across Iraq, including the beheading of U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg.
Vanderford's video also showed images of disfigured and injured people in Iraq. A recording of the Quran, Islam's holy book, played in the background.
Sipping soda in his kitchen, a shirtless Vanderford said he spliced images he took from a Hamas Web site showing mutilated bodies. He later edited the 55 second video to downgrade the quality so it would look similar to beheading tapes distributed since the war in Iraq began.
"We had to make it more lower quality to make it more realistic," said Vanderford, who works at a bank. "That was another experiment that was part of this to see how quickly that system will spread news."
He said he understood if relatives of those killed in Iraq thought his stunt was misguided, but he offered no apologies for the hoax.
"I see how it could be considered disrespectful. But I think people, if they look at it, will understand two other big issues it brings up," he said. "A small group of disgruntled people in Iraq or Saudi Arabia could just get more attention just by easily releasing something like I did on the Internet."